I felt my eyes begin to water as I finished reading William’s last entry. The thought of him alone and confused as he slowly waited to die was horrifying to contemplate. How terrified he must’ve been, and how confused his family back home would be to have never known what had become of him. However, the most horrifying realization was how similar our situation was, and how I was on the verge of suffering the same fate.
In addition to the heartache, a few portions of his testament stood out to me. He mentioned he had disappeared all the way back in 1989; nearly twenty years before I had. And yet his corpse looked no more than a week old. That raised two possible explanations in my mind, and neither of them were good. Either he had been there surviving for almost two decades without being able to return home, or for some reason his body just wasn’t decomposing.
Also, he mentioned he had last been hiking out in Tennessee before he woke up there, and yet, somehow the two of us were transported to the same location. So either the phenomenon, or whatever else was responsible had changed locations in the last twenty years, or it was large enough to effect both of us from hundreds of miles apart.
Once again, both possible answers kind of sucked.
He seemed every bit as confused about being there as I was too, and his theory got me thinking once more. Could it be possible? We had just randomly fallen into some time-void dimension? I wondered again how it even came to be created and for what purpose, but in the moment, I had no way of finding answers. His last words sent yet another shiver up my spine.
You’re not alone down here.
William’s knapsack contained a handful of coins, which would help me continue to mark my trail. He also had an empty flask, some matches, spare pencils but most importantly there was another flashlight with a bit of juice left. That was especially appreciated because mine was running dangerously low.
In the end I decided I might as well just take the entire bag, and so I lofted it onto my back. Before leaving, I said a quick prayer over William’s body, and halfheartedly continued deeper into the tunnel.
I don’t know how long I stumbled around in those desolate caverns, but it must’ve been hours because it was long enough to drain the battery on the flashlight. It began to fizzle and cut out, and soon the world went dark again. I felt a new level of fear then. Alone in the dark; a stranger in a strange land with no clue what I was doing or where I was going.
Then it got worse.
I took my sock off my foot, wrapped it around a bundle of William’s pencils, tied my lace around to secure them and dabbed a bit of the alcohol from the flask on it. As I was assembling my ghetto torch, I heard something shuffling in the distance.
With renewed urgency, I completed my work, and sparked a match. The flame on the torch glowed bright, bathing the cavern in orange. A modicum of relief flashed over me, but it was quickly extinguished as a shrill screech pierced the air.
I spun around, but could only see dust floating where whatever made the screech had been standing a second ago. I didn’t need to see it though. I heard terrible sounds begin to stir and grumble from all around me, and I lost all sense of composure.
I ran; barely even able to see where I was going in the dismal path. Unseen things began to hoot and cackle from the darkness around me, but I kept going without so much as a glance back. Up ahead I finally spotted green light filtering in from further down the passage. I ran for it, as the subterranean denizens stayed hot on my tail.
I neared the corner but paused as a wretched howl reverberated up ahead. It made the bones rattle in my body as the horrendous sound echoed through my veins. The sounds behind me were also getting closer, and without anywhere else to go I rounded the next bend.
Suddenly I had to slide on my feet to a stop as the ledge abruptly cut off in front of me. I then found myself at the rim of a massive chasm. The ground just cut off, leaving an open abyss before me. Some rocks scuttled over the cliff as I came to a stop. I watched them tumble downward into the darkness below, but none of them made a sound of impact.
It didn’t make any sense; there was just nothing down there.
“Neeren carra!” A sudden voice shouted to me in some unknown foreign language. I looked around but didn’t see anyone.
“Neeren carra!” The voice sounded increasingly desperate, but still I didn’t see anyone. More voices then chimed in, and soon a chorus of pleads from all manner of foreign tongues filled the air. Finally, I looked across the chasm, and on the other side of the cliff I saw something I could barely believe.
Embedded in the walls of the rocky cliffside were faces; dozens of faces, both human and other. It looked as though someone had just taken them and buried them up to the neck in the side of the cliff. More of them opened their eyes and began screaming, but I couldn’t understand what any of them were saying. There had to have been hundreds of them.
Suddenly something yelped and slammed me from behind, the impact very nearly knocked me over the cliff and into the abyss, but I managed to stabilize myself with just inches to spare. Something was on my back, slashing and tearing at my shirt and flesh.
I scrambled and backed away from the ledge slamming my back into the rocky wall. The thing on my back leapt down and fell between my legs, biting and scratching at my legs. It was quick; looking like some kind of large cricket around the size of a small dog. We fell to the ground fighting, and I managed to grab ahold of the thing, and use my leg to boot it over the ledge.
I heard it shriek as it plummeted into the chasm, but the sounds of others echoed from the tunnel behind me. The wall of faces grew in their chorus and I took off running along the ridge. The running didn’t last for long, as most of the ledge proved to be little more than a couple feet wide, and I was forced to slow down to prevent falling off.
The embedded faces continued wailing, and I saw more of those bug things emerging from the tunnel behind me. Down below though, I heard something begin to stir down in the abyss. I just kept going, but only thirty seconds later and my worst fear was realized.
A sudden dead end on the ridge, with nowhere left to run.
Behind me the mob began closing in, and I felt the tremors of something enormous begin thudding against the rock below me. I thought I was screwed, and honestly considered taking the plunge into the abyss. Better that than be torn apart by the mob of insectoids pursuing me. No matter how hopeless the situation seemed, something within me refused to surrender.
I turned back, determined to face the approaching horde. I braced myself as I watched dozens of them getting closer, but I didn’t get the chance to fight. Something made of glass then struck the ground in between us, bursting into a blaze of flames. The bugs shrieked and scampered back, and the thing below grew near.
I turned to look up, but before I even could I saw a rope unravel behind me. Someone was up there on top of the cliff, dressed in some kind of gas mask with bright green lenses. He shouted down only a single word to me.
“Climb!” He didn’t have to say it twice, and I lunged for the rope, pushing my boots against the valley wall and moving upwards as quickly as I could. An ominous hiss then emitted from below, and I turned to see some enormous abhorrent thing lumbering up the cliff behind me. Multiple pincers, on a thorax of jagged spines was carried forth by dozens of scuttling legs. The most disturbing thing about it was the face which appeared way too similar to a human’s for my liking.
A sudden boom then echoed through the valley, slamming into the hideous centipede crawling up the cliff. It wailed as a chunk of it’s body exploded away with an eruption of steam of green gooey puss. The impact of the gunshot caused it to momentarily stumble, and it proved the break I needed. When I neared the top, my savior reached out and grabbed my arm. In one swift motion he essentially hoisted me up and threw me onto the cliff beside him. He then fired one more shot which was met with an agonized screech, and cut the rope behind me.
I scrambled away, hearing the sounds of the ravenous mob continue to hiss and scuttle down below. The man was dressed in some kind of ragtag leather armor, with a multitude of tattoos on his chest and shoulders. He wore a sort of gas mask apparatus that concealed his face. When he seemed certain the beasts could not follow us, he turned from the edge and pointed his rifle towards me.
“Who are you?” He bellowed. I slowly raised my hands, trying to convey I meant him no harm.
“David… my name is David.” The man cocked his head slightly to the side.
“How did you get here, David?” I tried to answer, but didn’t even know where to begin.
“I… I don’t know. I was just walking in the woods… in Colorado and then… it was like a seizure or something. I just woke up here.” The man then reached into his pocket and tossed over a small shiny object that landed at my feet.
“Stare at it.” I eyed him in confusion.
“What? Why?” The man tightened the grip on the rifle.
“I need to know you’re not one of them.” He again jostled his rifle, gesturing towards the small reflective object. I didn’t understand what he meant, but I didn’t want to try his patience either. I stared into the small mirror-like surface and saw my reflection. My face was covered in dirt, filth and minuscule cuts, and deep bags had formed under my eyes. The man then sighed, and I looked up to see him lower his rifle.
“You poor, poor soul.” The man sheathed his rifle onto his back and just stared at me. I wanted to ask the man who he was, but another question was more pressing as yet another screech sounded off.
“What are those things?” The man turned back and peered over the cliff, then after a second turned back to me.
“I call the little ones ‘cave-hoppers’, but that big one… ooh, that’s the first time I’ve seen him. He’s an ugly sumbitch.” He replied with a minor southern drawl, his head glancing around the environment.
“What about those faces?” The man just kept staring outward for a moment, before finally turning back to face me.
“Best not to even think about that right now.”
“Where are we? What is this place?” The man sighed and looked up to the green celestial ring. I then realized it looked different than before. A little over half the ring had dimmed, leaving it in the shape of a rough crescent moon.
“That’s the million-dollar question my friend.” He eyed me again. “That’s what I came here to find out.” I sat up in the dirt, and the man approached and sat on a rock.
“Who are you? How long you been here?” The man then chuckled slightly.
“Been at least sixty cycles now, but I kinda stopped counting. No real way to tell time here, except for that.” He flicked a thumb up in the direction of the green ring.
“It doesn’t always stay the same though, but as for who I am…” He then lifted his arms and removed his mask. He was a white guy, maybe late-thirties with a thick black beard and shaved head. “Imperator Michael Torrens, call me Michael though.”
He leaned towards me and extended his hand. I met it and shook. The relief of just feeling another person’s handshake in that moment was indescribable. I had started to think I would never see another sane person again. He struck me as the military type, but his self-proclaimed title was one I didn’t recognize.
“Imperator? That doesn’t sound like a military rank.”
“That’s because I’m not military, at least not anymore.” His brow then scrunched as if he were second guessing himself.
“Well… I guess I kinda am, but… it’s difficult to explain.” My mind seemed to breathe a sigh of relief in that moment, but then the ungodly shrieks again thundered out. They were different this time, and didn’t emanate from the valley below. Suddenly something huge ascended into the sky far in the distance. It looked like a giant serpent, with multiple sets of wings and arms. I ducked down behind a rock, and Michael just laughed.
“Right on cue, don’t worry, he ain’t gonna see you this far out.”
“What is it?” Michael shrugged.
“Hell if I know, some dragon-ass thing. You don’t want to get near it though. Found that out the hard way.” He rolled back his pants leg, revealing a patchwork of scarred flesh that spanned from his foot to his thigh.
“Ouch…” I replied meeting his gaze. “It actually breathes fire?” Michael chuckled, covered the scar back up and shook his head.
“Nah… spits some kind of acid, nasty stuff though.”
“And I thought the dinosaur I saw earlier was bad.” I said. Michael’s gaze then shot inquisitively to me.
“Which one was it?” He asked. My expression then turned to mirror his.
“You mean there’s more than one?” Michael scoffed and raised his eyebrows as if to say ‘oh yeah, you have no idea’. I continued. “It looked like a T-rex or something. I don’t know…”
“And you got away?” He asked, his surprise further exaggerated. I just nodded sheepishly.
“You must be tougher than you look.”
“Not really, I dove in a swamp…” Michael just stared back at me befuddled for a moment, before breaking into a raspy laugh. After a second I laughed too, and the relief was immense. Even with all the monsters and demons in that wretched place, the worst part about it was the seclusion. It just felt so good to connect with another living human being at that point.
“Well you certainly got some cojones on ya at least. How many bells have you heard?” I didn’t understand his question at first, but then I remembered the resounding ring that bellowed as I left the orange haze valley.
“Just one… I think.” Michael’s eyes then grew wide.
“Damn… you really just got here, huh?” Again, I just nodded back. Michael then turned and pointed up to the sky as he spoke.
“You see that thing up there?” I nodded.
“That is God here. It’s the only indication that there is an order to this place. When that green is no longer visible the bell will ring again. Once it does, everything locks, and you will be stuck here until the next one.” He lowered his hand and seemed to ponder something solemnly. “Just like me.”
I didn’t even know what to say after that. His eyes seemed to glimmer with a sort of forlorn desolation. I think he’d been stuck there for a very long time.
“How do we get out?” I asked the question, but part of me already knew the answer. Sure enough, he nodded up at the tower looming just a couple hundred yards away.
“That’s our ticket home.” I stared up at it, seeing it more viscerally than ever before. It’s jagged architecture and swirling glyphs appeared worlds more intimidating than it had previous. It loomed large over the landscape, as some eldritch monolith of a forgotten eon. As if it wasn’t clear before, the fact became irrefutable in my mind then.
No way that thing was made by humans.
He and I just sat and talked for a while, and he offered me some food he had on him. It was only some odd orange berries and bitter nuts but it was most appreciated. We got to talking about everything; where we’d come from and what we had been doing.
Much as I had suspected after first meeting him, he confirmed he was a part of some shady government agency. Black ops stuff, classified above top secret. He said the organization he was a part of held no loyalty to any nation or individual government. Their focus was instead on humanity and planet earth at large, and sometimes that meant siding with opposing forces.
He said that he and the people he worked for had been trying to gain access to that place for a very long time. Michael managed to get in, but admitted he hadn’t seen a single other member of his team since he’d been there.
He then said that the ‘cycles’ he mentioned earlier were his measurement of the time the green ring took to deplete. Apparently every once in awhile the ring would go entirely dark, before resetting in full not long after. He also hinted that something very undesirable happened then, but also that it was a moment of opportunity.
He said the time between these cycles seemed to change drastically, but he had no way of proving that without an outside reference to track time. He said the first one he measured lasted 29 days, with the next lasting 113. His watch battery died part way into the 3rd, leaving him unable to keep track further.
He then told me some really strange things about the place itself. He explained that time worked differently there, but he didn’t understand exactly how. There was no day or night or seasons of any kind. Just a perpetual twilight illuminated by the green ring. He also said things didn’t rot there, and corpses didn’t decay. He even had a name for the nightmarish world itself.
He called it, ‘The Intermedium’.
That name didn’t make a whole lot of sense at first, but the more he explained the more I began to see the reason why. He told me a lot about it, and at a certain point I don’t think I believed him anymore. Not that I thought he was lying to me – I didn’t see any reason why he would. It’s just that the story he told about the Intermedium was something so ornate, so bizarre and so beyond any theory I had that it simply left me befuddled. It was one of those tales whose details were so strange, that it couldn’t possibly be anything but the truth.
Reality is always stranger than fiction.
I’ll save the bulk of the information he provided for my final entry, as I believe it is more suited for the conclusion. For now, let’s just say he told me what he thought was responsible for me ending up there, and in the moment, that was the explanation I truly needed more than anything else.
“So why me?” I asked. Michael met my gaze but seemed confused.
“Why did I get taken?” Michael just shook his head and shrugged, but it wasn’t good enough.
“Your best theory.” I demanded. Truth is I was desperate for any explanation by that point. He probably could’ve told me it was a secret conspiracy between Taco Bell and Bugs Bunny and I would’ve believed him. I just needed some kind of answer no matter how ridiculous.
“It just happens… some people get taken while others don’t.” He seemed to silently admit defeat in the prospect, but then returned my question with one of his own.
“Do you believe in the supernatural?” I just looked at him. As if there was any possible way I didn’t after what I’d already seen. He chuckled as he must’ve sensed what my answer would be.
“Well I didn’t, not until I woke up here. Thought science could eventually explain everything, and maybe one day it will but… I kinda doubt it. It’s interesting though; the Arapaho tribe used to have legends which I now think have something to do with all of this. They called it ‘the danger of the silence’. Their superstition was that isolated areas and ‘lonely places’ worked in ways which we can’t explain. They used the word spirits, but I think it’s even more complicated than that.
They would always travel in groups of at least two, no matter what they were doing. Gotta take a shit? One of your Arapaho buddies had to come pop a squat alongside you. They said it was dangerous to be alone in the woods, even for a single moment. Not because of animals or people, but because of them momentarily forgetting they exist.”
“What does that mean?” I asked. Michael shrugged and jostled his neck.
“The way they talked about it was like it was just a force of nature. Like the wind or the rain, it just happens.”
“Yeah, but there’s an explanation for wind and rain, so there has to be one for this.” He didn’t seem to have an answer for that, and his gaze just lowered to the dirt before him. Once again, the tower looming on top of the cliffs caught my eye. Michael pondered the question for a good minute, and finally he just grabbed his rifle and stood up.
“When we get out of here, I’ll tell you everything I know.” As much as I didn’t like it, I knew that was the last he was going to speak on the matter at that moment. We had other things to worry about anyways; as if what Michael had asserted was true, then we were running out of time.
He and I began to walk in silence along the crumbling ridge for a while. The narrow trail quickly turned from an uneven slope to mounds of boulders that we were forced to climb over. The ridge itself was terribly uneven, looking more like some frozen stream of mud than it did a natural rocky formation.
It took some time, but finally we crawled over a final ledge and found ourselves atop a small plateau. The tower loomed larger than ever before at only about three-hundred yards away. Michael slung his rifle onto a boulder and climbed up as I looked on, dreading the climb we were about to embark upon.
“How do you know there’s a way out?” I asked. Michael dusted himself off and glanced at the tower.
“I don’t, but there is a small percentage of people that do come back alive. I think that when a cycle finishes, it presents an opportunity to escape. And as you may have noticed, we don’t have much time.” He again pointed to the ring in the sky, and I saw that it’s light had further dimmed leaving it at only about a quarter of it’s initial size.
“If I was gonna put an interdimensional portal anywhere, it’d be up there.” He nodded to the tower with a chuckle, and I was hard-pressed to disagree. He carefully climbed atop a rock that stood in the center of the trail, and turned back to face me.
“Sometimes other things get out of here too though.” He extended a hand and I grasped it as he pulled me up to his level.
“Other things? What other things?” Michael spat and turned back up the trail as he let out a small cynical chuckle.
“Things you’re better off just not knowing about.” I followed along behind him, but my inquisitive pestering mind kept raising more questions that I needed answers to.
“You ever been inside?” I asked as Michael marched onward.
“Nope, been trying to reach it ever since I got here.” He replied without looking back.
The vicinity seemed quiet, and we seized the opportunity to move forward. The path widened into a small plateau, and molded further up ahead into a serpentine trail that appeared to lead directly to the base of the cyclopean tower. The gradient of it was steep, and it was clear it wouldn’t be an easy road to get inside.
The porous ground seemed to almost echo as I walked as if the structure itself was hollow underneath. We rounded the small rock quarry, and Michael suddenly stopped. He put his hand out, and I joined his side, seeing exactly why he had frozen.
Dozens of grey figures lay sprawled around the vicinity. I ducked down, but Michael didn’t move. Luckily for us, they didn’t either; and I realized they all were only statues. There were dozens of them, all frozen in various positions. Some stood fully upright with arms covering their faces, others were laid upon the ground as if solidified in death.
Most of them looked as though they were carved in states of distress. That discovery made me wonder whether they were more than just statues. The expressions carved into their slate simulacrums conveyed emotions of terror, sorrow and something resembling mania. Most were human, but there were animals and other unknown species as well. There was even one resembling a large stegosaurus.
“So, should we be on the lookout for Medusa as well?” I meant it mostly as a joke, but Michael didn’t respond. He just silently walked forward and knelt to one of the bodies on the ground. It appeared to be a young girl, wearing an old-fashioned gown like those seen in the early 1900’s. He put a hand out and touched her cheek, but nothing changed.
“I know her.” I turned to stare at him, mouth agape.
“Her name is Natasha, she was French, didn’t speak much English, but she was with me for a while. She just disappeared suddenly, and I never found her.” Michael then lowered his head, as if stricken by the weight of his apparent failure. I felt my heart ache for the poor young girl, but I had nothing to say.
After a few seconds, Michael lifted his head and stood back.
“Let’s just keep moving. We don’t have much time.” And so we did. Michael began to sift through the field of frozen figures, and I followed silently behind. The way was beyond unnerving, as I continued to ruminate on what Michael had claimed. All the people and creatures there frozen in time, like Han-Solo in carbonite.
What power could’ve possibly done that? I didn’t know, but it was pretty evident that we were walking right towards it. The silence made me uncomfortable, and eventually I had to ask Michael a question that had bothered me since arriving.
“So what’s with that green ring then? Is it a star or something?” Michael contemplated as we approached the sloping terrain.
“Not likely.” He didn’t bother to turn back as he spoke, and I could tell he had a lot on his mind. We were approaching the area where the bridge trail to the tower began, when he finally stopped and turned around. I saw his eyes scan over the macabre scene around us, and he let out a defeatist sigh.
“Even after all this time of being here, I still can’t explain half the things I’ve seen.” He then shook his head, frustration evident on his face. He then turned and kept going and I again followed.
The two of us climbed up onto the rock and stood staring at the horizon. From that vantage point, I could see further than ever before. A long desolate prairie rolled across the land until running into a blockade of towering dark mountains. I saw shapes moving in the distance, but they were far too distant and numerous to define. I then noticed Michael staring up at the ring.
“You know what’s interesting?” He asked, averting his gaze back to me.
“When it’s full, it almost looks like an eye.” Needless to say, that sentiment did nothing to quell my rampant mind. Michael then just chuckled, and hopped down onto the next part of the ridge.
I guess sometimes all you can really do is laugh.
We kept going up the winding trail, and slowly began our trek up the slope to the tower entrance. Michael pointed out a large arch at the base, and both of us surmised that it had to be the entrance. Before long we were practically crawling on all fours as the slope grew steeper with every step.
Michael then ushered me to go first, and after arguing my case for a moment I decided it was wise for me to do so. He was much more heavily weighted than I was after all, and since he had a rifle, I thought he could watch my back if anything tried coming after us.
I’ve never been much of a rock-climber, but I’ve had at least a fair share of it. That moment really pushed my abilities to the absolute limit. At the pinnacle of it, I found myself pressing outward with both arms and legs against parallel rock walls. I found my muscles beginning to twitch with every minuscule step, but somehow, I managed to reach the next ledge. Once over I collapsed to the ground and began to pant heavily.
“You good up there David?” Michael called. I took a moment to catch my breath before calling back down.
“Yeah… I’m good.”
There was a brief reprieve there in the form of a small crevice which I could just barely fit upon. After looking up to the final obstacle, I realized the toughest stretch was yet to come. The only way I could see to proceed was to leap upward and grab onto the ledge above me. If I missed or couldn’t hold on, then I’d plummet hundreds of feet down. Below me that empty chasm loomed large, threatening with an everlasting dark embrace.
“Can you reach the next…?”
A sudden massive thud against the ground reverberated along the cliff, cutting Michael off mid-sentence.
I bolted upright and scanned the horizon, but saw nothing.
“What is that?” I asked looking back down to Michael. His face had gone pale, and I saw his hand tremble.
“Oh no…” He muttered.
The sound was coming closer. Michael dropped his pack and began franticly digging through it.
“Michael what is it?” I yelled. As soon as the question left my lips I saw something absolutely colossal shift behind the ridge.
Michael pulled something from his pack and looked up with a desperate expression.
“Listen to me!” Michael shouted up.
“You get inside, and make your way to the top. That’ll get you home.” Michael loaded a fresh clip in his rifle and stared up to me.
*BOOM* The hill itself seemed to shift behind him.
“What? No, you’re coming with me come on!” I shouted. Michael shook his head.
“We’ll never make it.” He then inspected the small silver box in his hand.
“Here take this.” He tossed the small steel lockbox upward and I caught it.
“And this…” He tossed another item before I was even ready, but somehow, I managed to catch the long-nose revolver.
Something huge then began to rise slowly upward over the ridge.
“What about you?” I asked. Michael shook his head.
“No time, just get yourself home.” He muttered something to himself and smiled, but I couldn’t hear what it was. He and I locked eyes as another boom rattled out. I then saw the thing rise dozens of yards above us, looking like a giant moving slab of concrete; the same color of the frozen statues on the ridge. It’s head was rounded and lined with large green orbs that glowed similar to the ring in the sky. The massive golem began to turn in our direction, and Michael seemed to have already accepted the inevitable. He cocked his rifle, and I understood.
“It was nice meeting you David. Give my regards to everyone back home.” He spoke it with a slight grin, but I felt tears welling in my eyes. I wanted to argue, but didn’t get the chance again.
Michael turned and suddenly charged towards the towering behemoth. He opened fire, letting a barrage of bullets pelt into the head of the enormous golem. It then roared with the intensity of a dozen jet engines and I turned away to do what needed to be done.
There was nothing I could for him, I had to go.
The sounds of bullets and booming thundered behind me, as I eyed the ledge above. Fragments of memories began soaring through my mind with the ferocity of a psychic typhoon. It seemed as though every moment in my life coalesced into that single instant. One act that determined not only my own fate, but the memories of the others and the things I had seen. I said a quick prayer, and I jumped.
My hands struck over the lip of the ledge, but the smooth rock made a handhold impossible. I panicked as my hands and body began sliding backwards off the ledge. I was about to lose grip entirely when my right hand managed to snag hold of a nook in the rock.
I squeezed tight, using every ounce of strength to avoid falling to my doom. My legs dangled helplessly, and I grabbed hold with my left arm. The flashlight tumbled out from my pocket, and I turned to see it plunge into the abyss.
Some part of the nihilistic sense of my mind screamed out at me to just let go; just give in and rest. I was so exhausted, but something within me wouldn’t let me quit. It took every last muscle in my body to haul myself upward, but somehow, I did it. I pulled myself up over the ledge, and collapsed into the dust. I felt my mind flicker on the brink, but then I saw Michael.
He was just standing there, emptied rifle at his feet as he eyed the titan before him. The thing let out one final roar, and Michael didn’t even flinch. From the center green orb on it’s face; a glowing beam emanated and shined down upon him. I heard him gasp, and croak as his body seemed to twitch and go stiff as with struck with a sudden bout of rigor mortis.
He cried out, and his body went statuesque like the others. Patches of his skin then became discolored, turning grey and spreading like a slow rolling tide along his skin. Suddenly, all the others made sense, and within a couple moments, Michael looked just like them.
Grey and frozen forevermore.
I was momentarily transfixed by the profane demise of my only friend, and didn’t notice the golem turning in my direction. I looked up, just in time to see it lifting it’s arm. I sprung to my feet and ran towards the entrance of the tower, but I was too late. All I really remember was one last concussive ‘boom’, as everything exploded before fading to black around me.
…to be concluded.